Kane County History: As Its 177th Birthday Draws Near, Here's How St. Charles Got Its Name

Kane County History: As Its 177th Birthday Draws Near, Here’s How St. Charles Got Its Name

  • Editor’s Note: This article is part of a weekly series on Kane County’s amazing history. Today’s article was written by Lindsay Judd, executive director of the St. Charles History Museum.

On April 12, 1845, St. Charles officially was incorporated as a town, more than a decade after it was originally settled by Evan Shelby in 1834.

Before St. Charles could officially incorporate, it needed to settle on a name first. Believe it or not, “St. Charles” was not our town’s name at first.

Ira Menard

In 1834, when Ira Minard and Read Ferson sat down to name the new settlement, they originally called it “Charleston” after Charleston, NH, where many of the early settlers came from.

By 1836, these enterprising settlers completed the construction of the first dam, sawmill, and bridge — all very important things for a river town!

Read Ferson

The placement of the town was dictated by the natural course of the Fox River. The building of the dam was a crucial point in establishment of the town due to its role in the production of natural resources.

In 1839, shortly after platting the new town, it was discovered that there was already a Charleston in Illinois located in Coles County. A meeting was called that same year to re-christen the village.

Various names were suggested. Many of the settlers who hailed from New York suggested “Ithica.” However, John Glos, an enterprising German settler, insisted that there was no way any prospective German immigrants would be able to pronounce the “th” in Ithica.

For a young town, it was important to make the name as appealing as possible so people would want to move there. If they weren’t able to pronounce the town’s name, it was less likely they would make the trek. Or so John Glos thought. In any case, our town did not become Ithica.

S. S. Jones

After much debate and several names tossed in the ring, it was a highly esteemed young lawyer, S. S. Jones who came up with the winning name: St. Charles.

It won with a majority vote and St. Charles became the town’s official name.

During the 1840s, downtown St. Charles experienced a boom in settlement, development, and activity. Industries included lumber, wool-carding, grist and paper mills, a general store, and a blacksmith shop.

A post office, newspaper, schools, churches and the first medical school in Illinois had also been established. Hotels flourished, serving travelers and traders as they made their way to and from Chicago.

To learn more about the history of St. Charles, visit the St. Charles History Museum, open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

Read The Kane County History Series!

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